How to clean mortar off bricks

Mortar smears all over your brickwork? No bother.

Updated

Fresh interior brickwork in the living room after cleaning cement off bricks

Key steps

When you’re cleaning cement off bricks:

  1. Wet the brick first to reduce the risk of damage.
  2. Remove as much mortar as you can with a hammer and chisel.
  3. Scrub with a wire brush to remove smaller pieces.
  4. If necessary, use an acidic brick cleaner – following all safety guidelines.

Usually, when installing brickwork, builders will clean off any stray mortar themselves. Here you are, though, looking up how to get cement off bricks which suggests they may have missed a few spots. Let us help.

If you’re using acid for cleaning cement off bricks, remember that it could also clean away the mortar that’s holding the bricks together! Apply it carefully and don’t scrub between the bricks.

How to clean mortar off bricks without acid

Not interested in harsh chemicals or expensive products? Start by learning how to remove mortar residue from brick with a chisel.

  1. Give the mortar at least a week to set before taking a chisel to it if working with newly laid bricks.
  2. Drench the brick with water. It’ll help to prevent damage to the brickwork.
  3. Put on safety goggles to protect against shards of dislodged mortar.
  4. Hold the chisel against the unwanted cement, as close to parallel to the brick as you can get it.
  5. Chip the unsightly patch away with light taps on the end of the chisel using a hammer. Your goal is precision, rather than speed; you don’t want to damage your brickwork in the process of trying to neaten it up.
  6. Use a wire brush to remove the remaining mortar fragments. Careful, though; you could end up damaging the brick if you press too hard!

The above technique also works if you want to know how to remove cement from paving slabs.

How to remove cement stains from brick with acid

You may have seen hydrochloric acid recommended for removing mortar or cement. It’ll get the job done but it’s dangerous stuff to handle so you need to be careful – wearing safety equipment and testing the acid on a small area before you start cleaning.

Once this is done, follow our 10-step guide on how to remove cement from bricks:

  1. Gear up to reduce the risk of injury and chemical burns. Put on long sleeves, long trousers, boots, gloves, safety goggles, and a ventilator mask. Cover as much of your skin as you can and keep other family members at a safe distance.
  2. Lay a drop cloth at the base of the wall you’re working on to protect whatever’s underneath.
  3. Prepare a bucket of clean water.
  4. In a second bucket, dilute the acid according to the product’s instructions: it’s likely to be about nine parts water to one part acid. Use a sturdy plastic bucket, rather than a metal one, as the cleaner will eat metal. To reduce the risk of splashes, add the water to the bucket before you pour in the acid.
  5. Drench the brickwork with water before you begin. You’ll still need your bucket of clean water to hand once you’ve started cleaning.
  6. Use an acid-resistant paintbrush to apply the diluted cleaner to the mortar stains. Leave it for 5 minutes.
  7. Dip a scrubbing brush in the clean water and use it to scrub the unwanted mortar away.
  8. When you’ve finished, rinse the brickwork extremely thoroughly. If there’s any acid left on the bricks, it’ll eat slowly away at them. Follow our tips on how to clean a brick wall for extra help with this step.
  9. Rinse the paintbrush and scrubbing brush, tie them up in a plastic bag and throw them away.
  10. Still wearing your safety equipment, put the acid solution in a sealed plastic container. Keep it well away from children and contact your council to ask about hazardous waste disposal.

What acid should you use when cleaning cement off bricks?

Many websites will recommend muriatic acid, an industrial form of hydrochloric acid, but you may struggle to track this down. That’s because in the UK it is often sold under the name ‘spirits of salt’. You may also find it sold as ‘mortar remover’ or ‘brick cleaner’.

With these tips, your brickwork will never look dull again!

Originally published